LAS CRUCES—On Thursday at 10:30 a.m., in U.S. District Court in Las Cruces, Judge Kenneth Gonzales will hear an update on the New Mexico Human Services Department’s compliance with multiple court orders to remove barriers to food and medical assistance for eligible families.
At the hearing, the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty will provide information about a statistically significant review of food and medical assistance cases conducted between September 2018 to February 2019. Both the court appointed Special Master and the plaintiffs, represented by the Center, found that New Mexicans are still not getting the food and medical assistance they need because HSD continues to violate the law.
According to an extensive review by the Center of HSD client cases, HSD made errors in 202 out of 288 cases—an error rate of 70%. These errors led to 109 households of the 288 cases reviewed losing food or medical assistance, sometimes both. The Special Master validated nearly all these findings. The review found that HSD continues to illegally deny food and medical assistance in the following ways:
- HSD illegally denies food and medical assistance to families who fail to provide unnecessary paperwork.
- HSD’s own quality assurance team failed to find the vast majority of the errors found by the Center and the Special Master.
- HSD does not consistently apply eligibility policy and application procedures.
- HSD does not accurately inform families about their eligibility and what is needed to process their case.
- HSD’s management team lacks expertise to administer food and medical programs in accordance with federal law.
- HSD’s IT system requires changes to accurately process applications for benefits.
In September 2016, Judge Gonzales held former HSD Secretary Brent Earnest in contempt for failing to remove barriers to assistance for eligible families. The court appointed a Special Master to monitor and make recommendations to the department. In April 2018, the judge set a series of deadlines for HSD compliance with court ordered reforms.
The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty report on it’s case review can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/nmclp-report-on-hsd-case-review-2019-02-25-redacted/
The Gonzales v. Earnest joint status report can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/doc-873-joint-status-report-2019-05-01/
U.S District Court status conference on HSD compliance with court orders in Deborah Hatten Gonzales v. Brent Earnest, No. 88-385 KG/CG
Thursday, May 16, 2019 at 10:30 a.m.
United States Courthouse
4th Floor, North Tower, Mimbres Courtroom
100 N. Church Street
Las Cruces, New Mexico 88001
New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty attorneys
Court Appointed Special Master Lawrence M. Parker
HSD Secretary and Attorneys